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Melissa Harris- Perry

News/Business. Melissa Harris-Perry. (2013) From Essence Festival in New Orleans, La. New.




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  MSNBC    Melissa Harris- Perry    News/Business. Melissa Harris-Perry.  (2013)  
   From Essence Festival in New Orleans, La. New.  

    July 6, 2013
    7:00 - 9:01am PDT  

[ french accent ] antacid! sorry, i have gas. but you relieve gas, no? not me... that's his job. true. i relieve gas fast. [ male announcer ] gas-x is designed to relieve gas. gas-x, the gas xpert. this morning, my question. will a trial of george zimmerman show how post racial we aren't? plus, the portrayal of black women in reality shows and film. and advice from the extraordinary merly evers on how to protect voting rights. but first, it's nerdland from new orleans! good morning. i'm melissa harris-perry, live from the essence festival in my home city of new orleans.
"essence" magazine, the premiere magazine for african-american women has been hosting this festival in new orleans for almost 20 years. and it regularly attracts hundreds of thousands of people. this weekend is a celebration of african-american music, beyonce, hey, girl, and culture. we have an incredible amount to get to this morning. but first, we want to bring you the latest on the important international news, still developing out of egypt. for that, let me bring in from cairo, nbc's ian mohedan. what's happening there? >> reporter: the situation remains tense across the country, especially here in cairo, where officials say the death toll between those who supported morsi and those who oppose him have now reached 30. there was intense fighting not only in cairo, but in the city of alexander as well. and in between these two rival camps now is building tension. now, at the core of this debate,
obviously, is the military's action that was backed by popular revolt over the course of the last week, that ousted the former president, the supporters, and mostly the islamic backers of the former president have been calling this a military coup. they want the former president reinstated. they went to the streets yesterday, demanding that the democratically elected leader come back to office. for his part, though, the new interim leader is in the process of trying to form a caretaker government that can get this country back up and running and try to address some of the immediate challenges facing egypt. nonetheless, the situation here remains tense, as the military now has deployed across the country, as well as additional resources near various presidential buildings, where there are protesters sporting the former president have gathered to try to force the military to bring him back into office. there is no indication that that is going to be happening anytime soon, melissa. >> thank you, ayman, in cairo, egypt. and we'll keep our eyes on this continuing situation, both throughout the day today and tomorrow. but for right now, we are going
to bring it back to this incredible festival in new orleans. it is a celebration of black culture and music, and part of what is really great about the essence festival is that it gives us kind of this amazing space to discuss the challenges facing african-american communities. and especially african-american women. and the big question for women of color right now is how to make the most of the political power that they wielded in the 2012 presidential election. because make no mistake, women of color won the election for president obama. that's right, 96% of black women and three quarters of latinas voted for president obama. they are the source of the famous gender gap, making up for white women who actually voted for mitt romney by an eight-point margin. and it is those women, the women who are here today, at the essence festival who are needed to stop the radical conservative agenda and the all-out assault on women's bodies. but how do we translate our voting power into real change?
the problem is politicians on both sides assume that women of color will vote for democrats, and the democrats simply take that for granted. and the republicans write them off as impossible to get. so republicans feel free to support policies that harm women of color and democrats don't feel enough pressure to stop them. take a look at the latest assault on women's health care. draconian restrictions on reproductive rights in texas, ohio, north carolina. the u.s. house of representatives that will disproportionately affect poor and minority women. what we need is a coalition, broad and strong, that includes groups that the parties don't want to lose, can't afford to lose. that is how we fight back. and the progressive movement needs women, especially women of color. and we need them now. joining me now are vanessa kay bush, acting managing editor of "essence" magazine. louisiana state senator, karen carter peterson, chair of the louisiana democratic party. and thea butler, studies
professor at the university of pennsylvania, and of course, friend of nerdland, and alex wagner, host of now with alex wagner here on msnbc. thank you all for being here. alex, i want to start with you. what do we do with a coalition of women who we know showed up in part because president obama was at the top of that ticket. how do we get that coalition out in 2014 and in 2016? >> well, mitt romney was certainly an energizer. everybody looked at him and thought, that can't be the man that sits at 1600 pennsylvania avenue. i think what's happening, you're seeing the republican party at a real crisis and a crossroads, on both the national level and the state level. and i twa still the national level is what we pay attention to a lot in the media in terms of congress and the debates they have and the panels they have featuring all white males talking about women's issues. and that certainly in and of itself is enough to get people at least outraged. but what is happening at the state level across the country,
whether it's through defunding planned parenthood, whether it's through transvaginal ultrasounds, there's an ongoing battle that has dramatic repercussions for women, but really, especially women of color. >> i always want to sort of remind focuses that the kinds of policies that we're seeing right now, if you have a private ob/gyn and you have private health insurance, you just go to your physician and can have a first trimester abortion with very little trouble. when they shut down clinics, what that does is to impact poor women, teenagers, you know, women of color who may not have access to health insurance. and thea, black women are turning out at 70%, in the 2012 election, black women turned out 70% of us, turned out to vote. is there any possibility that in 2014, we can return people to polls at that level? >> well, swlult. if you figure out that now, let's take texas for an example. you go from 45 abortion clinics to like 5 across the state. that's like 800 miles along at one point.
i mean, black women really have to get involved in this, because this is affecting our health care, it's affecting everything about who we are. and whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, the fact that white men are making decisions about your body and what you do with it should be enough to take every woman to the polls in 2012, no matter what color you are. but i also think the biggest thing we have to think about, we have to think about, how do we make different kinds of coalitions? what was very interesting to me in texas, i looked across the futures and how people looked and the crowd for when they were fighting sb-10 with wendy, and that was a predominantly white crowd. where were the african-american women? i need to see -- >> and texas, latinas, right? i want a broad coalition. >> and that's what we have to start about, this is not just a black issue, this is an issue for all of us, but it's going to impact the african-american community horribly. >> karen, let me ask you that, in part on the position of essence, right? obviously, "essence" is not a political magazine, it's a
lifestyle magazine, but the issues that affect women of color are so frequently wrought in the political sphere, how -- an information source like "essence," what role does it play in moving women to the polls? >> i think that "essence" is absolutely critical to being part of the conversation. raising these issues about what's going on in our community, making sure that people have the information to make the right decisions at the polls, that they have complete information. that's part of what we do, provide, is that resource. and you know, because we speak to such a broad swath of african-american women, black caribbean women, african women, you know, we don't take that responsibility lightly, at all. >> which is a reminder that immigration reform is also a woman's issue, right? we talk about abortion and health care, which can, but we don't always remember that immigration is not just a latino woman's issue, it's a black women's issue. >> in a recent issue, we spoke to a woman, black, undocumented
immigrant, and talked to her about being seen and kind of unseen. but not being a part of that conversation. the conversation is always around border patrols. it's always around, you know, english as a second language. what we forget is that there is a huge, huge population that is contributing to this country, black, caribbean, and african, that are investing in this country, that they're paying taxes in this country. and yet, we haven't invested in them. >> we don't even think of the issue that way. karen, it is one thing to get voters out. when i say 70% of black women showed up at the polls in 2012. but the other piece of this, if we're going to beat these kind of restrictions, is that women have to run. so as head of the democratic party here in a red state, how do we get more women, especially women in red states, to put their name in the hat? >> you're absolutely right, melissa. it's really embarrassing i serve in the louisiana state senator and there are only four women out of 39 in the senate, right? and then we wonder why the
policies that come out of bodies like this are so, you know, horribly impactful for women. you're right. but it's going to take working before we get to the presidential, as alex mentioned, we're going to have to get into the state campaigns, the legislative campaigns, and other local elections, because the folks that end up running for congress in those higher offices ultimately come from school boards and state legislatures. so it starts really at the bottom. what we're doing in louisiana with the democratic party is having training and we're starting those. and we've got something coming up in two weeks here in louisiana. so we're teaching them the things that you need to do before you jump out there. and more and more women are thinking about it now, because there's so much at stake. it's a sacrifice. >> i want to come back to you on exactly that issue as soon as we get back. in part because it looks like maybe there are some states that have been red states that could go blue. here you are, kind of finding that out here for women out of 39 in that body. that is something. stay right the there, we're going to be right back. and we've got more live from the
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welcome back. i'm melissa harris-perry, and we are live at the essence festival in new orleans. we've been talking about women of color and their increasing influence in the voting booth. in recent elections, more latinas, blacks, and asian-american women have been finding their ways to the polls.
but that trend could be reversed by voter repression efforts underway in several states, efforts that just got a boost by the supreme court. these efforts, such as requiring certain photo i.d.s in order to vote disproportionately target women. women make up the greatest share of groups unlikely to have required voter identification. groups like the elderly, the poor, and the very young. women change their names more often than men when they marry or divorce, making it more of a challenge to carry i.d. or proof of citizenship in their current legal name. women also vote early. in louisiana, most early voters in 2012, 57% of them, were women. so we're seeing these restrictions on what could be women's ability to actually cast their vote. before we get to that, though, i do want to come back to this idea, when we are seeing wendy davis standing there filibustering and sort of the huge outpouring for her, my first thought is, can we turn texas blue? and if we can turn texas blue, who else goes blue, right?
i mean, louisiana, we're right next door. is it possible for democratic parties to make real inroads into these republican states? >> without question. we are on a path. we in louisiana have a strategy to re-elect mary landrieu in 2014 and make sure we see nothing like governor jindal in 2015. >> lord, lord, lord. >> when we have a gubernatorial election. and ewe are on that path. we are having phenomenal interest. and i think he's setting the stage, he's created a window for us to really energize folks, similar to what rick perry is doing next-door in texas. people are like, really? no, that's not what i'm trying to have, you know, for my children and my grandchildren, and they are fully, fully engaged. so we've got a plan, it's being executed, and there are a lot of people involved in it. but i need more people elected to carry the torch. >> no one's ever even asked me to run for office. no one's ever said, oh, you'd be a great state senator, a great city council person. is there an organization like essence could do?
i'm imagining here at this incredible festival, what if there was a run, sister, run, that would help get people ready for running for office? >> i think that we have an incredible opportunity to put forth young women who have the potential to be the next governor, to be, you know, and what we have to do is create the structure and the process. so we need to create some mentoring. we need to create some funding, an emily's list for people who want to be able to run. essence magazine, i feel, really is a place where people can get that inspiration, read about those young ladies, how they're getting their start, and then that can inspire you to jump into the fray too. so, yeah, i think we have a real opportunity here. >> and, you know, so the inspiration always feels like it's part of it to me, but the other part of it is, man, it is ugly in the political world. >> absolutely. >> some people are like, are you going to run? run, absolutely not! because the level of ugliness and attack can be a deterrent obviously for women to showing up to run. >> exactly.
i'm thinking about what happened with rick perry making that is notty comment about wendy, you know, you think she would know from her own background. i think that's what keeps women away from doing this. one of the things we have to do, just like we did souls to the polls in 2012, we need women to the polls -- >> uterus to the polls! >> exactly. you have to be able to push past this. these stories are not liabilities, they're assets to speak to other women, whatever your experience has been, whether you've had an abortion or you're a single parent, whatever your experiences are, you have to make them pluses and not minuses. republicans are going to put women out there that are a lot of show and no tell. >> i would also say, i mean, maybe this is somewhat controversial, is that women disproportionately need to be asked to run. and we've got to get rid of that. women need to stop waiting for the invitation. effectively, women need to push other women into the arena. and look, it is going to be hard. we live in a world where there are, you know, gender parody doesn't exist in a lot of
arenas. women candidates are judged differently. it is tougher for women to run. there's a reason why women are not an equal share of our elected officials. that doesn't mean it's right, that doesn't mean it's easy, but it's, i mean, women have to be -- women have to motivate other women. and i think women also need to act as support networks for other women, which is also something we don't talk about. >> and alex, i want to ask you another thing on this. part of what's surprising to me is the republican party apparently wants to brand itself as the party against women. so why such a desire to stand out there at the forefront of this? what is the trade-off? >> i think this is about the long game and the short game. and the democratic party is a playing the long game. we have an incredibly broad coalition of women, old people, people of color, young people. that's the long game. the policy is that the democratic party is embracing our long-term policies. policies that the republican party are embracing, lack at what bobby jindal is doing on medicaid and expanding the medicaid rolls. is that a long-term strategy for the state of louisiana and poor people who need health care?
no, of course it's not. the short-term ideology, which is trumping the long-term goals of the party. and really, i think, ultimately results in the gop losing a generation. >> unless, of course, they can keep them suppressed at the polls, so that generation then can't come out, which is why we need a new voting rights act. we'll talk more about that a bit later in the show. thank you to vanessa kay bush. i appreciate you joining us and i'm always rooting to turn louisiana blue and fbj. up next, the george zimmerman trial. is it a referendum on race for a new generation? well, ready to go look? so ready. lots of options, huh? i can help you narrow it down. ok thanks. this one's smudge free. smudge-free. really? and this one beeps when you leave the door open. upgrade your laundry room and kitchen appliances during red white and blue savings. thank you! more saving. more doing.
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trial of george zimmerman, who has pleaded not guilty to the charge of second-degree murder in the february 2012 shooting death of her son, trayvon martin. citing self-defense. so sabrina fulton listened again to her son's final moments, identifying the voice screaming for help on a 911 call as that of her son, before a gunshot rang out. >> ma'am, that screaming or yelling, you recognize that? >> yes. >> and who do you recognize that to be, ma'am? >> trayvon benjamin martin. >> later, george zimmerman's defense attorney, mark omara, questioned fulton about her recognition of her son's voice. >> you certainly hope, as a mom, you certainly hope that your son, trayvon martin would not have done anything that would have led to his own death, correct. >> what i hope for is that this would have never happened and he would still be here.
that's my hope. >> absolutely. >> and now dealing with the reality that he's no longer here, it is certainly your hope, as a mom, holdout hope, as long as you can, that trayvon martin was in no way responsible for his own death, correct? >> i don't believe he was. >> it was a painful week of testimony, but this morning, we're going to move past the machinations of the trial itself, which is in recess until monday morning, and step out of the courtroom to discuss what the trial is telling us about ourselves. and for that, i'm joined by msnbc contributor, joy-ann reid of the grio, and toure, co-host of msnbc's "the cycle." also here again, anthea butler and alex wagner. joy, let me start with you. we were just looking at numbers around the o.j. simpson trial and looking a to the belief about guilt and innocence, broken down by race, in the o.j. simpson trial. and those numbers demonstrated
this kind of clear difference between blacks and whites in terms of the sense, 27% in 1995, saying they believed that he was guilty. 73% of whites saying that the charges were true, and those numbers changing only a little bit four years later. very, very similar numbers when we look at the 2012 zimmerman poll, where 73% of african-americans said that they believe that george zimmerman would have been arrested if the boy whom he shot, trayvon martin, was white, and a tiny minority of whites agreeing. have we made any progress since o.j. simpson? >> i think, clearly, in a lot of ways, no. and if you go to sanford and ask black people in sanford what would have happened if -- even if trayvon martin was still black and the racial identities were still the same, but he was local, this sort of sense of defeatism. this sense that their deaths don't count. a mile high stack of black boy's bodies and no one would care. and the feeling that because he
was an out-of-towner, that was the only reason anyone cared. and you also throw into the mix the racial polarization that happened around barack obama. the moment barack obama said that if he had a son, he would look like trayvon, the employ polarization around this case began and it's never ended. >> there have been other cases recently that have captured our attention, gone 24 hours on the news cycle, jodi arias and casey anthony, but it didn't feel as though white women's sense of belonging in the cunning hang in the balance of what those verdicts were, right? there was a kind of salacious aspect to them, but there wasn't a sense of, if this verdict comes down one way, that will signal something about a whole people, and yet, over and over again, it keeps feeling that way, when we have these kind of race trials. >> well, i mean, i think because america, obviously, has an incredibly difficult history on the question of race welcome it is something that still haunt us. there was this widespread belief, or at least a hope that the president's election in 2008
represented a post-racial chapter in america. i think that has proven to be anything but true. and the other part of this trial is gun culture. it exposes an urban rural divide, a north/south divide, lines along the racial divide as well. it is a jigsaw puzzle piece, and the trayvon martin trial in many ways throws that into very sharp relief. >> and i keep feeling, toure, like i am almost more invested in this verdict, for what it will do to us than what it will or won't do to george zimmerman, right? so, you know, i sort of hate trial coverage in a certain way, because here we are, predicting what a jury will do and whether or not they've shown the burden of proof and all of that. i'm not a lawyer, right? >> right. >> but i do feel like a murder or a release or an acquittal are going to cause very different responses for communities. >> i think that's true. i keep trying to remember, when this first happened, what we wanted was an inquire. we wanted a trial. we wanted a black boy who was
killed to have a discussion around that, and not just, we wiped this under, we move on, this is no big deal. so we got to the trial. if the lawyers, from this date, cannot prove the case, then the man should not go to jail just because he's black. but the thing i've come down to, too, this generation is learning, what is the meaning of racism today? is it that a person is racist all day long and maybe they have a clanhood in the back of their mind, the back of their closet? no, that test doesn't really work. george zimmerman can say, look, i have a black friend, remember the black friend who was all over the media, i have black kids i tutor. there's no sort of hypocrisy in saying, i tutor these black kids, but i see a black boy in the distance, and i put all these stereotypes on him, and then i chase him with my gun because of those stereotypes. the test is not, the people who are normalized in your life, and i'm not racist toward those people, but can you extend that sort of humanity to strangers and see black strangers as human beings and complex and not criminals who are on drugs and have a gun. >> toure, what you just said, to
me that is, that's precisely sort of my discomfort around this paula deen scenario, right? the idea that we can call out racism only if it carries the "n" word with it, only if it sort of shows itself in this very particular, old-style way, and oriether than that, we're n even interested in what racism looks like. >> even paula deen was a stereotype herself, here's this white woman with a southern accent saying the "n" word. but of course george zimmerman couldn't be a racist, he was just following somebody in a neighborhood who looked suspicious. but i think this will make young people wake up and realize racism is real. we are not post-racial. >> do you think they have forgotten? i think young people in this society of mass incarceration, they've already got that. >> i think african-american kids got it, but i don't think the rest of these kids got it. this is what i think is really interesting. i think trayvon would be somebody that would have hung
out, had fun, listened to rap music, he could have had a hoodie on, a little white boy would have had a hoodie on, and it would have been all good until he got shot, and then they would say, he must have been doing something wrong. >> i think there are a lot of lessons to learn from the trayvon martin trial, but there are some really practical implications as well. and regardless of the outcome, revisiting the stand your ground laws, a re-examination of the incarceration rate and incarceration culture in and around the african-american community, the way black men are targeted, and there is an acceptance of black man on street goes to jail doing something violent. that is a given. we need to re-examine that trope in our society. getting to a racially harmonious future is going to require very practical steps. >> it's not just about what's in our hearts, it's about what's in our lawbooks. we'll talk more about this case. also later in the show, civil rights legend myrlie evers is going to join us. stay with us. a lot more from the essence festival, next.
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i'm melissa harris-perry and we are coming to you live from the essence festival in new orleans. we're talking this morning about the case of george zimmerman and trayvon martin and what it tells us about who we are and where we are on the questions of race in this country if toure? >> well, talking about the practical matters that we're going to get out of this, and of course the voting rights act ties into that. because if you're not registered to vote, you're not going to be on a jury, right? and we have a jury with no black people on it. and i know you know as a professor that the south has used all white juries as a way to perpetuate racism, to allow violence against black people to happen with no punishment. so if we're depressing the jury
rolls, we're going to have more and more white juries who are saying, a black person gets killed? so what? >> and of course we don't know yet what or what this jury won't do. but it's a trial based on evidence and whether or not the case can make its case beyond reasonable doubt. but the symbols of all of this that are overlaid on top of it. do you have any sense coming out of this that there will be either this sort of awakening of young people or a kind of protesting or even just a change of some of our legislation around this. >> unfortunately in florida, so far the answer is no. there was this task force that was created by the governor, the former lieutenant governor, the first african-american lieutenant governor was asked to head it. they came out with zero recommendations. they came out with no changes at all to the stand your ground law. and the other thing is, what's built into this case, and i think for a lot of young, black men is that in order for trayvon martin, in order for george zimmerman to be not guilty, you have to presume that just the
movements, the appearance, he's reaching forward, there's just something about trayvon martin's being was so suspicious, that you would fear him too. and the idea that we never think of the notion of fear in a young black man. i've never heard anyone say, well, maybe he was scared of him. but people presume that black, young men are only scary, they're never scared. that is bizarre to me. >> for me, anthea, the whole thing turns on, because there's no question that george zimmerman pulled the trigger. that's the fact on dispute. and there's no question that trayvon martin was not armed. those things are not in dispute. so the question of threat and whether or not it was self-defense has everything to do with how we characterize trayvon martin. >> absolutely. and you heard it in the trial yesterday, when his mother was being questioned. you would have to hope that he didn't do anything wrong, as though, you know, that is the reason why he would get killed in the first place. so it's this devaluing of a black life over everybody else's life. a black man is worthy to die just because he looks
suspicious. i mean, that is a very profound thing. people need to really think about that, this man, who said that george zimmerman that said, i care about black kids, i did all this stuff, and when he sees a black man, i need to get my hand on my gun and go after this person. obviously, there's a disconnect for him and this disconnect is all throughout our culture. we definitely need to say that every life is valuable, it is not just a white man's life that is valuable. it is a young black man's life that is valuable and begin to care about that. >> for me, alex, i can't know what is in george zimmerman's mind. the jury is apparently going to have to make some decisions about that, but i am worried about what it says about, you know, sort of permissiveness about this stance in our culture. so just like in any rape trial, my concern is in part about whether or not we say, if you girl were out late at night or if you were wearing a short skirt, then maybe you brought this on yourself. on the one hand, we have the set of policies that you want to change and that many of us may
want to change. but if you're the parent of a young boy wearing a hoodie, i mean, is this a moment when we have to, once again have the conversation? >> oh, yeah. >> jonathan capehart has talked and written about this too, growing up as a young black man, he was told to act and dress a certain way, because that stereotype -- i mean, i think it's fairly profound, as joy said, if this trial ends up finding george zimmerman not guilty, that is a tacit acknowledgement that a young black man walking down the street in a hoodie late at night is a threat. and that has profound implications for society. and also for black families and black men and the way they purport themselves. >> i was raised with that, if you go into a store, keep your hands out of your pockets, don't run if you don't have to. all those sort of things you need to do. when barack obama talks about no drama as a child, no sudden moves, right, we're all taught those sort of things and we all understand, even if your parents don't tell you -- my parents the told me overtly, but even if you parents don't tell you, you see the way you can activate fear in
other people and you have to go back and try to not activate that. you can't always control that. >> that's the burden on trayvon here. the question is, why didn't he say, sir, my name is trayvon, i live in this -- right, like, in other words, why didn't he immediately defer to a stranger who was following him at night?! >> i have teenagers, and i do it with my kids. i feel uncomfortable if my son or my -- they're very young, they're very small, but i feel a little uncomfortable if they walk outside in a hoodie. you have to sort of always have that fear that someone may perceive them. you see them and understand that they present a certain image to the world. and i think the same thing was done to rachel jeantel. because she wasn't humbling herself, to someone who was being rather rude to her. >> and a young woman clearly having posttraumatic stress. her friend, did, in fact, die and she was the last one to speak to him. but again, that point that races
are kind of filtered. it's painful to watch how this is once again playing out. thank you to msnbc's alex wagner and to toure. i love having my fellow msnbc hosts here at the table. up next, the prisoner who's been in solitary confinement for 41 years, he's now facing truly the fight of his life. ♪ that's me... i made you something. ♪ i made you something, too. ♪ see you next summer. ♪ [ male announcer ] get exceptional values on the highest quality cars at the summer of audi sales event. ♪ a regular guy with an irregular heartbeat.
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one of knicks wallace's attorneys. thank you for joining me. first of all, tell me about mr. wallace's condition? >> he's gravely ill, for sure. he's lost about 55 pounds in four months and he is being treated completely negligently. i would say he's being killed through intelligenceal neglect. >> and is he still in solitary confineme confinement? >> presently, he's in a hospital. >> okay. i got a letter from mr. wallace right after i wrote my letter to attorney general buddy caldwell, asking him to reconsider the situation of solitary confinement for the angola three, a lovely note from mr. wallace. remind our viewers who know a little bit about it, what the kind of controversy around the angola three is. >> well, in 1972, angola penitentiary was nothing but a cauldron of violence and brutality. and herbert wallace, albert wood fox, and abert king arrived there as black panther members.
their mission was to stop the brutality. because of that, they were challenging a plantation, they were challenging the status quo at a plantation where brutality worked to the advantage of the overseers. >> of the prison guards. >> a young white guard was killed. they immediately said, let's go round up the panthers. they must have done it. the trials were nothing but kangaroo courts. prosecutor misconduct, discrimination on juries, grand juries, the list goes on and on. >> so here we are now, 41 years later, herman wallace is terminally ill, and asking for compassionate release. he is at all points, always maintained that he is innocent. is there any likelihood that mr. wallace will get compassionate release, as an elderly gentleman, who is going to die? >> i don't think so. and part of the reason is, the state of louisiana in the past six years has spent $6 million in lawyer fees to keep a
71-year-old man in solitary confinement. and to fight his habeas corpus case. that's our taxpayers' money. $6 million, buddy caldwell decides should be spent here. >> is this indicative to have what our criminal justice system is, or is this an outlier? >> well, the criminal justice system frustrates justice, especially post-trial. prosecutors do not want to admit mistakes. judges do not want to admit mistakes. if the main event happened, you were found guilty, case closed. and we know now, through dna exonerations, that there are many innocent people in prison. but for the fact that dna has allowed them to prove their innocence, they would still be locked up. >> well, we in nerdland will keep mr. wallace in our thoughts and prayers. and thank you for your continuing work and the continuing work of amnesty international to keep him in the spotlight. >> thank you very much. coming up, a reality check
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nerdland jumped for joy earlier this week when we found out that kerry washington was on "vanity fair's" august cover. but it's been eight years since another black woman has been on the cover of the magazine, and kerry is the first black actor to do it alone. in 2013, why are there still so few beautiful representations of these gorgeous black women in media? joining us now are issa ray, creator of the hit web series, "the misadventures of awkward black girl," and tonya lewis lee. so nice to have y'all here. and we still have joy and anthea
here. i want to ask, what difference does it make to have kerry washington on the cover of "vanity fair," on the cover of a major fashion magazine like that? >> it makes a huge difference, especially for young people. we really need to see ourselves represented across the board. and you know, we need to see images of people like kerry washington, beautiful black women, who are positive role models. so i think it's a huge step for all of us. >> so, i sort of worship kerry, more than a little bit. i have "scandal" parties on the show and all of this kind of thing. but i do wonder, one of the things that i have learned from black women in our life which has been empowering to the extent to which we have created alternate measures of ourselves, of our own beauty, of our own worth, that don't require sort of mainstream media to tell us, you're fantastic. is there a way in which we celebrate, for example, kerry on the cover of "vanity fair," but maybe not the people who appear on the cover of "essence," for example? >> well, i think that kerry is
just really, she's setting an example right now, because she is one of the lead black actresses on television in a way. >> "scandal"! >> it's a huge deal to sort of be, and i don't want to say that we need to be validated by mainstream culture, but it's an important element. we're still a part of the society, we're functioning members, we are beautiful people, and there is a need to sort of to feel like we belong, in a way. and kerry is setting a standard for beauty, a new standard of beauty that we can all accept and love. and the world can love it. it's not to say that this means more, but it just, it's an affirmation. >> if it's an affirmation of a particular kind of beauty. so one of the sort of controversies right now in representations of black women is zoe saldana as nina simone, nina simone, who was a dark brown skinned woman who sang and talked about herself as rejected as not being sufficiently beautiful, and here we have a very classic, a very different kind of woman playing her.
>> and it's really difficult, because you don't want to pile on an actress who's getting beaten up for something, it isn't her fault, she went for the role and she got it -- >> and she might be great. >> she might be great, but because nina simone's appearance was so endemic to her art, because she made it so important to her, because she made it a part of what she's saying about part of her pain, about part of her glory, it's all about who she was as a physical person. so i think casting someone who looks nothing like her and having to have the prosthetics added, it doesn't feel like, and it doesn't feel affirming for all the actresses who look more like nina simone and i think it's unfortunate all around. >> it's an unfortunate because there's all these actresses that need jobs, but a black woman just interchangeable for them. we can get the kind of black woman we want and frame her into something else, without seeing us as this diverse, you know, beautiful women, light skinned to very dark skinned women.
and so to just put her in that spot, is really, i think, denigrates all of us in a different kind of way, because it just says, we will set the standard of what your beauty is. and you don't know what it is. >> one of my favorite pieces by sweet honey and the rock the the song, "there are no mirrors in my nahna's house." the idea that the affirmation and love that can be given intergenerationally from one black woman to another doesn't require something about who we are visually. and yet, there is, as you pointed out, something very powerful about the affirmation of beauty that comes from this broader context. how do we manage, kind of, the light-skinned privilege question and the issue of hair and all of that, wanting to affirm sort of the totality of who black women are? >> gosh, that's an interesting question, how do we manage that. i think we have to really embrace all of the whole diverse spectrum of who we are as black women. it doesn't matter who you are. my experience as a black woman just because i'm fair skinned does not mean that it's any different than -- it may be
different, but i have always felt that being seen by the broader white world, i'm still seen as a black woman. so therefore, my experience is that of a black woman, just like a darker sister, you know, and to me, it doesn't matter what color you are, we're all still in this together. and we all still have to deal with some of the same issues that come from being a black woman. the world sees me as a black woman, as i am, and that's how they deal with me, just as they deal with a sister of darker color. >> so you've laid out that gauntlet, the world sees me as a black woman. the question is, what is it that the world thinks that black women are? and one of the things that helps to shape that is, of course, reality television. so we are going to talk about that as we come back. stay with us, everyone. we are just getting started. remember, "mhb" show is two hours. there is more nerdland from tat top of the hours from new orleans. hey linda!
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welcome back. we are live from the 2013 essence festival in my home city of new orleans. "essence," the premiere magazine for african-american women, has hosted this event for nearly 20 years. "essence" magazine is one of the few national publications that is targeted primarily to black women. so while a diverse array of black women are featured in the pages of "essence," too often in most mainstream media the representation of our lives look like stereotypes rather than complicated and full human beings. in response, we've looked to the success as black women as producers and executives as a step forward for maybe more accurate representations of black women on tv. take chandra rimes, who has brought us the complicated characters of olivia pope and miranda bailey. then there's tracy edmonds and ava, the success of these women
has shown that there's a market for television targeted to black women and tv executives have taken notice. and as a result, we do have more shows in fact targeted to us. some of them look like this. >> [ bleep ] let me tell you, [ bleep ], [ bleep ]. >> no! >> oh, my -- what?! >> what are you doing?! >> absolutely not! absolutely not! >> hold up, hold up! >> tell me you said that [ bleep ] -- >> like i said before -- >> no, i want you to [ bleep ] say, did you say it or did you not? >> like i said before, i don't remember. >> ev, ev, ev. >> back -- >> [ bleep ] [ bleep ]! >> come on! >> i'm still here, and i'm still fabulous. >> you know, you better preach now.
right? fabulous! gone with the wind fabulous, okay? >> tv executives produce, televise, and air what there is a market for. and with the success of reality shows like "real housewives of atlanta" and "basketball wives" and others, there are obviously many of us who enjoy watching rather than debating representation of black women on shows like real housewives are positive or negative, a better question is, why are so many people tuning in to see them? and there a market for anything different than what we have just tapped? with me at the table, managing editor, joy reid, former miss usa and star of bravo's "real housewives of atlanta," miss gone with the wind, fabulous herself, kenya moore, miss adventures of awkward black girl, and tanya ray lewis, editor and are you healthy now. kenya, you take all kinds of criticism. soy appreciate you being here to sit at the nerdland table, in
part because i despise like positive versus negative. i'm more interested in complicated. so tell me the complicated story. tell me the complicated story of the value of what we see and why so many people tune in to watch, for example, real housewives and "basketball wives." >> i think with our show, we are the number one show on the bravo network, and that's for a reason. it's because when people, black, white, asian watch our show, when women watch our show, they identify with the women that they're seeing. they're mothers, they're business women, they're married, in relationships or not, and you show them in everyday circumstances dealing with their problems and trying to navigate their lives. and that's what women identify with. it's not necessarily the negative aspect, although we do see some of that, but it's a small portion of the show. what you get involved in are these people's lives. so when you're watching, oh, i understand that she's having an issue with her son, that was just in jail for a misdemeanor or something or another woman
might be watching and says, i'm having issues with my husband and how do i resolve that. that's what i'm tuning in for, is this show, what everyday life looks like. >> let me push back a little bit and suggest that maybe part of what goes on is that actually people don't identify, and they would prefer to say, man, whatever problems i have, they are not those problems. and whatever challenges i have in dealing with them, at least i'm not dealing with them like that. part of my concern is that to the extent that you and other people are actual real human beings, you're not actresses portraying a part, you're not olivia pope, you're an actual person, but it becomes easy to denigrate you in these moments in ways that then flop over into real life, so then when we see rachel jeantel sitting on a jury stand, it becomes less about that human experience of that black woman, and she's just one of those people like the ones i see on reality tv. am i completely off-base on that? >> no, you're not completely off, but people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. and no one's life is perfect. >> no, ma'am.
>> i don't see jesus walking around here. so we all have those moments when we yell at our child and we lose control and we feel like the world is ending, but those moments aren't captured on television. and i think that's the difference is our show is a reality show and you open yourself up to those vulnerable aspects of your life, and that is what it is. that's what you're watching. so there's no one walking this earth that can say, oh, i'm beneath that. michelle obama is a fan of our show and i think the world of her show. so i think people identify with what they're seeing and it is what it is. and it's real and sometimes it's ugly and sometimes it's really beautiful. >> joy-ann reid, off little expression over there and i wanted to give you a chance to jump in. >> i think there has to be a balance. and i think because you have an olivia pope, because you do have -- there was a time when there was a big vacuum teen the cosby show and a different world, where was saw all these portrayals of ourselves and a long drought when there wasn't
much. you do see a glut of reality television, which does represent one view of black women, there's one way to look at this. but it's still difficult to see african-american women as actresses getting lead roles in serious dramas. there's not enough of a variety. and i think as long as there's balance, there's room for everything. i mean, i watch my braxtons, i watch it, it's one of my shows i like. and you know, you have to have a little bit of fun in tv, too. we can't be serious all the time. i think there's room for both. but i do worry a little bit that the image of black women is becoming one dimensional in terms of the way the rest of the world sort of looks at us. that we're only seen as reality tv and we're not given the opportunity for a kenya moore to be cast in another drama. but in some ways you're saying, look, nienie leakes is now a bona fide actress. so i think there's an opportunity to grow from it. and i think as long as there's balance, it's okay. >> let me ask you the role model question and the question of our adolescent girls. i think to myself, on the one hand, i'm always a little
uncomfortable when people say, you need a role model who looks like you. i feel like if a human can do it, i can do it, whether she's a black woman or not. but i also feel like if my 11-year-old watching, i would feel a bit of angst as to what it's teaching her as to how to manage the crisis in our lives. >> i don't think we have enough representations of who we are out there, especially for young people. so when you're talking about, you know, the real housewives being the example for your daughter, she needs to see images of herself as the lead girl in "the hunger games," as the lead girl in other kinds of television and media, so that it sort of counterbalances it. look, we're talking about reality tv. >> it's fun, it's light. >> absolutely. and look, black women may denigrate themselves sometimes in reality tv, but so do white women. >> but the stakes aren't as high for them, right? it's part of my discomfort with saying, oh, you as a black woman
must be more upright, because the stakes are higher. but the stakes are higher. >> well, the stakes are higher, and also, they have more representation. and there, to me, is where the issue is. if we have more diverse representation, then it doesn't become that the real housewives represents all black women. >> and latina women are having this issue as well. there are some people that spoke out against the new show, featured latina cast that are beautiful, talented women, that are being portrayed, well, it's not necessarily negative, but some people see it as such, because they don't have a vast majority of shows that shows them being glamorous and beautiful and successful and lawyers and doctors and such. so i do agree with what you're saying. we feed a full representation of who we are, and not just in one particular area. >> when we come back, i want to talk to you, because i am neither glamorous nor do i fight with bottles. i am an awkward girl, i am
simply socially inept. so when we come back, i want to talk about that also as a way of presenting who african-american women are. stay right there. when we come back, more from the "essence" festival in new orleans. i think she tried to kill us. [ sighs ]
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let me introduce myself. my name is "j" and i'm awkward and black. someone once told me those were the two worst things anyone could be. that someone was right.
>> that was a sustain from the award-winning and hit web series, "the misadventures of awkward black girl," which its creators, issa ray's third web series. talk to me about this awkward black girl, what is the market there that is so different than the market for reality tv? >> i haven't seen anyone many mainstream media, and black women especially, that are flawed that's not depicted in a way that's glamorous or cool. and that's me. i'm a consumer of all content. i watch everything. i was kind of frustrated that i would watch certain shows like seinfeld and not see it in people of color. >> flawed in a way that not affects your glamour. just flawed. like, i'm just behind on my credit card bill. it's not cute, there's no reason, i'm not oppressed, i just didn't pay it on time.
>> right. >> or i mess up my guest names all the time, because i just do, right? so, i guess what i'm wondering is, if we could see that kind of flaws in ourselves and in others who look like us, and yet love and appreciate and enjoy them, does that generate sort of a different psychological space for us to be in? >> absolutely. and to create someone who was universally specific. so she's awkward, which is something we can all relate to. we've all been awkward, we've all been uncomfortable in social situations, but at the same time, you know, she is black. i'm black. and there are certain things unique to being a black woman. so by creating a space where it's okay to be black, you know, you're forced to -- you're forced to reality to this girl who happens to be black and goes through these things that we all go through. i've noticed that my audience has grown, because people are like, oh, my god, i'm not black, but i'm definitely awkward. so i guess i'm an awkward girl. >> i'm an awkward brown girl. >> an awkward brown girl or an awkward asian girl. it doesn't separate us.
>> universal characters speak to everyone, so that's where you -- the proper base is for developing any character, is that you make it universal. so is it necessarily a black or white thing, we're all women, we can identify with your character, so it's wonderful. >> to the extent that reality tv is on the one hand real, but also, have aspects of it that are scripted, do you feel like you're actively generating a character, in part to keep the human you a little bit back from it, or is that really all you, that we are seeing at all points? >> well, it's interesting, because i think, from a producer's aspect, because i do produce -- well, film, in reality tv, i think the producer's look to cut you a certain way, to fit into a character. so if you're the villain, they're going to find any little moment that you sort of portray yourself as a villain. if you're an airhead, they're going to find any footage that is going to make you look that way. so you are giving them the authenticity of who you are, but
it's up to the editing bay to say or the producers to say, okay, we're going to use this aspect of this, you know -- >> so you're not self-consciously doing villain? >> oh, absolutely not. not that i am a villain. >> no, i just wonder, look, even, joy, even when we're hosting a cable news show, because this is not -- this is not straight journalism in the same way, we're not going out, we're not pretending not to have a point of view, there's nonetheless a joy who is the television version, and a joy -- even though you're a deeply authentic human, and the same thing for the melissa who shows up here, a slightly more relaxed melissa, i wonder, though, if we do it, in part with the sense that the little black girls are watching, and that somehow that thing that we're creating is not only for ourselves and for our producers and for our ratings, but for them. >> and you know what, the first time i really sort of got that in a big way was the first time -- well, during the democratic national convention. and we go down, right, we were
together down there in north carolina, and you realize, when a young black girl came up to me, and she's like, i'm a teenager, i just think what you're doing is so important, to see myself, somebody who looks like me. and it just kind of hit me. and she was getting teary. and i'm like, but i'm just on tv reading some news. why is this so important to you? you realize you do have a responsibility, because there are young people out there who are seeing you, seeing me. you have your hair in braids, that's how my daughter wore her braids. she never saw someone on tv. you don't really see that that much on tv. i think we all are like, we're responsible in a certain way because of the young women who are looking at us and finally sort of looking in a mirror and seeing themselves. and you do feel a tremendous -- >> i want to say this as well, you know, what i want in the world for my daughter to look at is some day, very soon, let's hope, a joy reid show. all right. i have seen it out loud. thank you to joy-ann reid, kenya
moore, and issa rae. we'll take a short break. later in this program, civil rights icon, myrlie evers williams is going to join me. but up next, for all you doc mcstuffin fans out there, the doc is in. ♪ [ male announcer ] you wait all year for summer. ♪ this summer was definitely worth the wait. ♪
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when you experience something great, you want to share it. with everyone. that's why more customers recommend verizon, america's largest 4g lte network. could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance. yep, everybody knows that. well, did you know some owls aren't that wise? don't forget i'm having brunch with meghan tomorrow. who? meghan, my coworker. who? seriously? you've met her like three times. who?
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medical care is acute here in new orleans, where the gap in care between black and white, rich and poor, is well documented. african-american residents here are three times more likely to die of diabetes than white residents, and in the city's poorest zip code, which is mostly black, life expectancy is 25 1/2 years lower. 25 1/2 years lower than in the zip code with the highest life expectancy, an area that is more than 90% white. the affordable care act would help close this health gap by expanding medicaid to millions of uninsured adults, but in louisiana, 445,000 uninsured people would get medicaid coverage next year, 60% of the people, if the state hadn't refused to expand medicaid. as we say in nerdland, fbj, forget bobby jindal. joining me now, the president
and ceo of women's study, dr. alicia. tanya louis lee, and spokesman to raise awareness for infant mortality. and julian malvo, economist and president emeritus of bennett college. so nice to have y'all here. doctor, let me start with you. just give me a lay of the land, when i say racial health disparities, what does that look like in real life? >> when you look at the statistics, and from the public health end of it, you look at the different diseases and look at hiv/aids, and when you look at other sexually transmitted infections, chlamydia, we have seven times the rates of whites. even though we have lower incidents of cancer, we have higher deaths. there are so many things we are higher at that we really shouldn't be or we don't have to be, if there are certain things in place. so when you look at all the
various reasons, you can look at the health care system, you can look at the prevention piece of it, and is the information out there? are our environments set up for us to be healthy? can is it hard for us the to be healthy around where we live. what was along the line of diagnosis. are we following up with our diagnosis? a lot of sometimes we know there's a research out there that we as african-american women aren't really following up for many different reasons. and on the treatment side, are we getting the proper treatment? are we getting offered the treatment that we should get offered, because there are disparities that we know providers are not offering african-americans the same type of treatment. that's on the health care side. then you want to also look at what socially determines our health. siam very big in public health. and i feel like those factors actually determine our health way more than what happens within the health care system itself. >> before we even show up at the doctor's office. >> exactly. and so, look, where we live, work, play, and pray, the zip corro code that we live and that you mentioned earlier has a strong determination of how our health is going to be. so a lot of our factors and how we address health equity rae has
to be focusing on those social determinants of health. >> so when you talk about the kind of complexity, everything from our behaviors to our interactions with our doctors, to our social and, literally, our environment, with the air that we breathe, the water we drink, and i think, tanya, for me, the most appalling of the health disparities is the infant mortality one. but even for middle class african-american women, with health insurance, the likelihood of our children dying before the age of 1 is 1.5 to 2 times that of white infants. why in the world such a disparity on infant mortality? >> well, it's so interesting. you know, we just talked about all of those social determinants of health, but i think when you're talking about black women, the certain socioeconomic standard, that's the black woman who is working at a job as an executive, going into the office every day, sometimes afraid to take time off, to take care of her health, because, you know, she's in a stressful situation, and the level of stress.
stress, i have found in my travels is becoming one of those things that doctors are really looking at and are focusing in on as a factor that really is having a serious impact on our health overall. >> and racism and sexism, we know, have a cortisol-generating -- >> it is a physiological affect on our bodies, that is affecting our unborn children, for sure. >> that is just stunning. and part of the reason i bring up the infant mortality one, because it confounds the idea that this is all about class, right? sometimes when we talk about the racial health disparities, people will say, it's just about poverty, if you had health insurance and you weren't poor, but that race manages to obtain even when we've addressed class. how do we disentangle the economic and racial factors as we look at health? >> there are three prongs to health disparities. it's assets, access, and attitudes. assets, how much money you have.
you know what we get disparities, because we have less income. the average african-american, $31,000 family income, average white american, $50,000, family income. so our assets are different. our access is different. in some of our neighborhoods, they're closing clinics. so you have people who cannot get -- if you live -- if you're a middle class black woman, but you live in let's say southeast washington, where there is a middle class component, but it's mostly poor, you've got to go across town to get to health. and we go across town again with that assets issue, and have a co-pay, so many low-income folks say, i'm not going to do the co-pay. so they just basically let it ride. then the other piece is the attitudes. which is both the attitudes that the doctors have toward you, and the attitudes you have toward the doctor. many doctors just write us off. you have to be very aggressive, i don't care what class you're in, if you go to the doctor. you have to ask questions, because some doctors will just assume. and then the other piece of it, of course, is some of our
attitudes towards medicine. i mean, we're talking about -- you almost have to drag brothers to the doctor. because some of them, in day and age, will tell you, i don't go to the doctor because of the tuskegee experiment. i'm like, dude, that was really a long time ago. basically, black men don't want to go to the doctor. and just one other thing. when we talk about differences in weight and obesity, we also have to talk about the issue of food deserts. there are places in our communities where people have to go, you know, measure a mile. the definition of food deserts is if you don't have supermarkets, not a mom and pop, more than a mile. some of our sisters are using their supplemental s.n.a.p. dollars to go to the corner store, because they don't have -- >> they just don't even have access. >> dr. sherman, can this issue of access and also these issues of stress, this is exactly what y'all do at iwef, trying to get women here in this city to live healthy lifestyles, despite all of these structural issues. how do you start to penetrate
such big problems? >> it's very, very difficult. the studies have shown and we have looked at this issue, that after a certain time, the african-american woman's body, in particular, begins to break down and deteriorate from the generations of stress. and that even connected to some of your work about being so crooked, so it's a very, very, very difficult place to penetrate, to say to us, to demand health care. and i'll tell you a personal story. i had to interact with the medical system here a couple of weeks ago, and after being ignored for five hours, the doctor, when he found out i was a doctor, said, why didn't you tell me you were a doctor? >> because you would have gotten different care, because it indicated you had status. >> and i said, because in this
hospital, i'm a patient, and and very, very upset that you had a stereotypical attitude about me as a black woman and treated me this way. so we cannot disentangle race and economics. >> and here, new orleans is just such a key example of that. thank you, dr. sherman for your work here in the city. everybody is staying around. up next, we're going to talk about trayvon martin's mother. her courage, her heartache and her connection to african-american moms everywhere. hey linda! what are you guys doing? having some fiber! with new phillips' fiber good gummies. they're fruity delicious! just two gummies have 4 grams of fiber! to help support regularity! i want some... [ woman ] hop on over! [ marge ] fiber the fun way, from phillips'.
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there is never any shortage of hand-wringing headlines about the plight of single mothers. but even while we talk about single mothers, we rarely hear from the women themselves. which is why it's remarkable
that one of the most publicly visible people with whom we've all become intimately familiar over the last two weeks is an african-american single mom. sabrina fulton, the mother of trayvon martin, has shown up alongside trayvon's father, tracy martin, every day, front and center, to witness the trial of the man accused of murdering her son. continuing her choice since the day she first received the news that no mother should have to hear, to share her grief and her resilience. and this week, her testimony had a national audience. yesterday, on the morning before she first took the stand to testify in trial, this tweet saying, i pray that god gives me strength to properly represent my angel, trayvon. he may not be perfect, but he's mine. i plead the blood of jesus for healing. joining us again, anthea butler. i want to take this issue of single moms and of trayvon martin and lay it on top of the conversation we've been having,
both about health and reality tv. and tanya, you had such an interesting response in the commercial, as we were talking about dr. sherpington's experience of saying, you should have told me you were a doctor, because all i saw you as was a black woman, and that's why you haven't gotten care. >> that's why when doctors or health care providers or banks see us on the real housewives or whatever reality show smacking us each other around, they think that's who we are and they treat us in a certain way. so it's really critical that the media portray us as who we really are, because it has a real, real serious impact on our health and well-being. >> i mean, it may have a real serious impact on the george zimmerman trial, right? both mothers testified, both trayvon martin's mother and grrm gr george zimmerman's mother testified that it was their child that they heard screaming on that tape. and part of this is going to
turn on whether or not you believe the single black mama or not. >> exactly. and it's a way in which her representation of self has been so strong and so constant that i've just been really impressed by her. because the hardest thing for a mother is to have to talk about her dead child. and to listen to day after day, and sit not that far away from the man who inflicted that injury upon your child, that took him away from you, that takes at of courage. but i think she's a representation of a lot of black mothers who are out there, who are going through this every day, who have lost more than just one son, they've lost multiple children. and this is where we have to begin to talk about, what is the image of black motherhood? it's black motherhood is something more than just, other, we're trying to keep them from being welfare queens and everything else. is black motherhood an image of strength, of security, of facing these undoubtable odds with your children out here in the streets. they don't have to even be doing anything. they can just be minding their own business like trayvon was,
and the next thing, they end up dead. >> and the odds are serious. one thing i want to talk about here, doctor, as we've talked about this race and economic piece, when we look at single women's assets, this is 2007 data, but when we look at single women's assets by race, african-american women and latinas have extremely low assets in comparison, in comparison to their white counterparts. even the value of their homes, the fact that they don't really own stocks in the same way. and if you compare it to married white men, it's extraordinary different. so the assets with which they're working to raise their children may not provide them the opportunity to provide healthy environments. >> it makes it very difficult, not only for healthy environments for their children, but for them to be healthy as well. when you go on the plane, they always say, the oxygen mask goes down, and whose are you supposed to put on first? your own. i think it's very difficult as a single black mother to do that, when there's so many different competing priorities. and those are the conversations that we have to have and the context of, how do we improve health in our community?
it can't be simply going to the doctor and taking your medicine. it's how do we change these environments, so it makes it easier for a mom who has to work to go get her health care. how can we coordinate health care services, so it's almost a one-stop shop deal, so she doesn't have to go to so many different places. >> and when you said that, about the oxygen mask. i fly with my daughter every week, because we compute here from new york. and almost every time when we hear them say that, and i realize this is crazy, but i always look at her and say, don't worry, i'll put yours on first. or i think, don't worry, i can do them both at the same time. but the idea of caring for myself first, it feels like a rejection of the thing we're supposed to do as black mamas. >> you know, a broken vessel can't carry any water. you cannot be an effective mother if you don't care of yourself. there's so many mental health and other health issues in our community, as our doctor friend said here, that we've got to deal with some of that.
i want to take a minute to take us back to 1926, where a harlem renaissance writer wrote a poem called no images. it goes, "she does not know her beauty, she thinks her brown body has no glory, but if she could dance naked under palm trees and see herself in the river, she would know, there are no palm trees on the street and dishwater gives back to images." in some way, i would almost rather be not in 1926, but no images or horrible images. we were invisible, and now some people treat us, invisible, inferior, or exceptional. and those are the three ways that we end up being -- >> not just ordinary humans, good bad and all. >> so the sister on the cover of a magazine is going to be a highly accomplished woman or a welfare queen. so, you know -- if you read a newspaper and they talk about home ownership, for example, you see a cute little couple, ordinary, it's not a black
couple. when they talk about day care, it's little white children, not black children. so we have to be either exceptional or pretty much inferior. and when you talk about the wealth data, let's just deal with that wealth data. >> as soon as we come back, i promise. they're screaming at me to take a break, but i'll let you do that when we come back, because i want to talk about this idea of exceptional versus the rest of us. i want to figure out how can we not denigrate the role of fathers at the same time we say, all right, single mamas can do it too. more on nerdland, live from new orleans and the essence festival when we get back. the end. lovely read susan. may i read something? yes, please. of course. a rich, never bitter taste cup after cup. 340 grams. [ sighs ] [ male announcer ] always rich, never bitter. gevalia.
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south lawn. and yet even as the obamas have been hailed as an aspirational model for african-american families, we have to resist the urge to denigrate those who don't fit the same mold. don't let anybody tell you that if you want to be michelle, you first have to find the barack. so dr. melvo, i cut you off before the break, as you were trying to talk about the issues of wealth and economics in the single mama story. >> the average black single mom has wealth of $5. the average black single mom. that's not wealth, that's a coca-cola. you know, the average white single mom, same position, $41,000. so you're talking about a whole different lifestyle when you look at that difference. and i think the story, melissa, ought to be, those single moms who made it, despite those wealth differences, almost are how i got over, my mom raised five kids by herself, my parents were divorced when i was 6. she's a social worker, and i can tell you, our little selves were
on the bus, going to the museum, going to the museum of art, she did everything. but it was very, very difficult, she didn't have a life. those are the stories we've got to tell, not the story of the sister who's got a bunch of children and is on public assistance. >> and the reality is, 72% of black children are born into single-parent households. that is our family structure. and i think sometimes we are trying to push it into the -- and we would love to have that family structure of the barack and the michelle obama, but the reality is that 72% of the time, it's not happening. >> and i don't want to say it doesn't matter if you don't have a daddy, like, not at all. in fact, we're going to talk more about that on tomorrow's show. but on the other hand, if we're talking about public policy, i can't give you a man, but i can make sure there's fair lending policies for your house. i can make sure you're being paid a fair and equitable wage. i can make sure that your child has the medicaid that they need. so from a public policy perspective, i feel like i want to tamp down that single mama an anxiety a little bit. >> absolutely, in order to do that, one of the things -- somebody who does public policy,
pretty much, is that we have to engage single mothers in that conversation on a whole lot more. when i look around the table and see who's present, it's not us, typically. in order of conversations and policies and programs that are relevant to us, we need to be there saying this is what is good for us at the same time. >> and we have to remove the shame. so many people believe that it's shameful to be a single mom. so even if these sisters are sitting around the policy table, they're unwilling to reveal some of the things -- i tell the story, when i do, some folks cringe, why did you tell that? because it's the truth. and i think my mom is a hero. >> and anthea, we've talked before about, you know, i was an unmarried mom for quite some time. but i didn't think of myself as single, because i had my mother. we had created la ed like anoth family structure that created two parents. is there a way to talk about other kind of kmucommunal structures we have for raising our kids. >> and the church needs to quit
making it a shameful thing for being a single mother. it's a religious layer over of the shame. and look at the bible, there's tons of different kinds of family relationships. >> surrogate moms, adoption. >> you need to understand that the model is, we take care of all the children. you know what the right wing accused you of when we say, we need to take care of all of our kids. we're not coming for them, we want to put them in the community. we want to make sure that we have different kind of family structures. that's what america is. it's not just for african-americans, it's for everybody who have to figure out how to work this out. it's just not going to be the same anymore. >> thank you so much to you all. we are not done, because myrlie evers williams joins us next. you're watching "mhp" on msnbc, live from the essence festival from the new orleans convention center.
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there were few more dismayed about the supreme court's decision to gut the 1965 voting rights act last week than those whose efforts helped to bring it into being. among them is the widow of murdered civil rights leader, medgar evers. myrlie evers williams, an activist in her own right, who worked alongside her husband to campaign for voting rights and bring an end to racial discrimination. today she is a distinguished scholar and residence at alpine state university, the chairman emeritus of the naacp and the chairman and board of the myrlie evers institute. and she is here with me joining us in nerdland. thank you for being here today. >> it's my pleasure. >> so the voting rights act decision by the supreme court last week is painful. it is distressing. how should we be thinking about it? how should we be trying to respond in this moment? >> number one, i hope that
enough people, particularly our young people, will have a sense of the history of what took place in the 50s and the 60s, to actually have the voting rights act. with that knowledge, they can assess what we stand to lose with this new supreme court decision. i think of those who fought and died and worked so hard to see that we had a clear right, constitutional right, to vote. after going through all of the deaths and all of the other challenges that we had to reach this point in american society, what we think we have it, and to have it stripped from us by the supreme court decision is really more than, i think, americans should bear. it's one of those things of finding every little thing that you possibly can, the states, to prevent us from voting again. we don't have to count how many
beans are in a chjar, how many bubbles that are in a bar of soap. now we're told that we need to have all kinds of identification. and that identification is determined by the states. there certainly are states in america who do not want their people of color to be able to vote. so we are not back at the very beginning, but we are certainly being told, you don't have it. you thought you did. here's the challenge. and my challenge to everyone is to know what we are deprived of. know what the states are saying we must have, and once, again, once again, challenge all of this by law. >> is there a way to keep hope in the context of this struggle? i mean, i guess your point that i thought we'd have arrived at something, maybe not arrived, but arrived at something, and to see it go back. and yet, when i look at you and the way that you have, throughout the course of your life and activism, met much
worse, both personal and political challenges, with such determination to overcome them. >> well, you know, there was something medgar used to say often. freedom is not free. you have to work for it. you have to stay in touch, you have to be aware. and i think in some way, we kind of slept through this, thinking that we had arrived, and here we are, with a sign that says, no you haven't, not yet. so the battle starts all over again. but the progress that we have made, we need to be able to pull the people, those laws, and everything with the signal, a loud signal, that says it's not over yet. take all of the technology, brick our young people in, so that they will know that history, and can find ways to help move us forward again. >> is that the one thick y'all are doing at the medgar and myrlie evers institute?
what is that work? >> that is a part of it. we just celebrated, and i will say, celebrated medgar's life, and not his assassination, but his assassination took place 50 years ago. so we started the medgar and myrlie evers institute as an outreach to young people, to encourage them to be involved in civic engagement. to provide scholarships, we hope, for students, particularly with black colleges, to work with young people, we have a budding program, working with young men, in elementary, junior high school, called the a-team. >> i love that. >> and it's to help them be aware of their neighborhoods, the projects that they can be involved in, and be a fine example that other students will participate and we'll be able to get rid of the crime, we'll be able to get more parents
involved in building communities. and, of course, since we are just starting, there will be other issues that i'm sure we will tackle. but i'm just so pleased that we have this opportunity to at least get started with the medgar and myrlie evers institute, because it's all about the future. >> that's right. and moving that struggle and connecting it back. when you look out over essence festival, all of these amazing men and women who are here, the diversity of black life that we see here, is there -- oh, go ahead, mississippi! is there a message that you would want to convey, as we move forward, that is connected back to the work of you and of medgar evers? >> i would have to use the word "fight." and i don't mean physically, but with the mind and with the dollar and to build up our communities and to go past my generation and a younger generation, which we seem to
think there is a divide, but pull us together on the real purpose on why we are here. >> and to keep fighting to do that. that is our show for today. thank you to myrlie evers williams. thank you to you at home for watching. i'm going to see you tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. eastern, 9:00 here in new orleanses. once again from the essence festival here in new orleans. tomorrow, the fight from education to voting rights, plus, inspirational feature and author illyanza van zandt joins me life. coming up now, "the ed show." ♪
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wellso ready.o go look? lots of options, huh? i can help you narrow it down. ok thanks. this one's smudge free. smudge-free. really? and this one beeps when you leave the door open. upgrade your laundry room and kitchen appliances during red white and blue savings. thank you! more saving. more doing. that's the power of the home depot. your choice, maytag or ge washer, now just $399 each. good afternoon, americans. welcome to "the ed show" live from new orleans, louisiana. let's get to work. >> education i